If the Western Cape Premier and former DA Leader is merely confusing on Twitter, she was mystifying in her Daily Maverick opinionista contribution, From the Inside: Zuma’s Alternative Facts for the Alt-Left.
It can be read as saying Jacob Zuma and his ANC aren’t absolutely terrible for South Africa. Things can work significantly well, even if it’s despite them. They don’t have to be “stopped as soon as possible,” as the DA’s urgent messaging normally pleads; their influence can be bypassed. As a matter of fact, Zuma could steal more credit for successes that have happened despite him instead of embarrassing our (otherwise functional) country in front of the world.
Gareth van Onselen pointed out a similar dissonance in the DA’s messaging when it lauded the ANC of Thabo Mbeki and Nelson Mandela. Instead of positioning itself as fundamentally different from it at policy and implementation level, the DA was saying the ANC had a leadership crisis but could be left to run South Africa once that had been sorted. That, van Onsenel argues, creates zero compelling incentive to switch for good.
Zille’s article mentions the Financial Mail’s “breathtaking exposé” on how “the Zuma network had used the State’s electricity generation-and-distribution monopoly to enrich the Zupta circle.” Is she not reiterating what became broad public knowledge after State of Capture was released? Since then, the ANC has said investigation on state capture has to include “white monopoly capital” and not just focus on brown-skinned beneficiaries of corruption. The Premier acts as though she’s missed that more South Africans believe in the existence of “white monopoly capital” than before, and rightly or not, that her constituency has a log in its eye while pointing out specks in others’ eyes.
It is against this backdrop that the ANC’s unstated reason for pushing the Bankorp-ABSA uncovering, for revelling in rating agencies’ tacit admission of pro-West bias in Moody’s agreeing to pay a fine for its role in the 2008 meltdown, is it shows what’s commonly thought of as white power being as corrupt as what’s commonly thought of as black power. Even former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has remarked on the increased frequency of the use of “white monopoly capital” in public conversations about justice.
This is ANC-style dog-whistle politics, messaging at a pitch mostly black people will hear. The ruling party’s implicit ultimatum to its constituency is it has one of two possible futures to choose from. The ANC-led future, which is hell, and a DA-led future is one in which government works well but the economy continues being defined by over 50 years’ worth of White Economic Empowerment. This is black hell.
The article further plays into the ANC’s trap by dismissing affirmative action as “the fig-leaf Zuma calls Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment, which is in reality a flimsy cover for bribe-based black elite enrichment” while failing to suggest alternative legislation to ensure black people catch up to the effects of apartheid’s White Economic Empowerment.
For the benefit of those who are otherwise unfamiliar with the DA’s proposed solutions to poverty (“war on grime,” anyone?), Zille could have replaced some of her article with the DA’s thinking on how to address apartheid’s legacy. But she didn’t — because she, too, is playing at dog-whistle politics, and that article’s target audience was wealthy people.
After citing “the real” statistics on restitution, she says, “The facts do not suit [Zuma’s] strategy” for survival. Is she saying that overall, we aren’t drowning in economic difference along racial lines? If that’s the case, then what’s wrong with the current administration other than failing to take enough credit for the good that’s happened despite its failings? Why should ANC voters switch to the DA?
She unwittingly traps herself between two positions: BEE has been a smokescreen, and we now ought to “clear the air” by moving on to something more investor-friendly (read: non-racial, and therefore extremely racist). She’s saying this now — when everyone’s screaming Black Consciousness and Wokeness?
The other position says racial economic difference isn’t that real, so the ANC’s biggest mistake is using SONA to push its agendas for problems that have already been solved when they could draw for credit for the solutions. Again, this makes the DA less compelling an alternative.
This argues the official opposition right off of the political equation. But of course, for the DA is a business interest group that occasionally dabbles in politics.
Its goal isn’t to win elections. Its message won’t be absorbed by more than 30% of South Africans. Commercially speaking, this absorption rate is enough for them to politically protect business interests.
The Gospel of post-racial trickle-down economics won’t bring about the political realignment South Africa needs. But it doesn’t have to; it need only convince the existing DA voter base that it someday will. For if that base understood that the DA isn’t there for the distance, it would lose its motivation to vote.
Winning national elections would be more than the DA bargained for. That’s why its people are campaigning for the ANC.
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